Health and safety consultants in the UK should be nationally accredited, tighter controls should be imposed on “no win-no fee” lawyers seeking compensation on behalf of clients from employers and there should be a clampdown on “absurd” applications of health and safety legislation.
These are a number of recommendations from a recent UK government report, which proposes some of the most significant changes to health and safety in the UK in decades.
Conducted by former Government minister, Lord Young of Graffham, the landmark report also recommends simplification of risk assessments for some businesses, extra scrutiny of councils which ban events on health and safety grounds and ensuring that emergency services are not at risk of litigation for acts of heroism.
The report, Common Sense, Common Safety, recommended that all health and safety consultants qualify for a professional certification, accredited under relevant professional bodies.
Initially, the UK’s Health and Safety Executive (HSE) could take the lead in establishing the validation body for qualifications, working with relevant sector and professional bodies. However, this function should be run by the professional bodies as soon as possible, said Lord Young in the report.
While the 1974 Health and Safety at Work Act remains an effective framework for OHS across the country, the report said “the standing of health and safety in the eyes of the public has never been lower, and there is a growing fear among business owners of having to pay out for even the most unreasonable claims”.
As such, the report advocated the introduction of a simplified claims procedure for personal injury claims on a fixed costs basis, and restricting the operation of referral agencies and personal injury lawyers and control the volume and type of advertising.
The report also recommended simplifying risk assessment procedures for low hazard workplaces such as offices, classrooms and shops.
As such, the HSE should create and make available simpler interactive risk assessments for low hazard workplaces, and also create periodic checklists that enable businesses operating in low hazard environments to check and record their compliance with regulations, according to the report.
Rob Strange, chief executive of the UK’s Institution of Occupational Safety and Health, broadly welcomed Lord Young’s recommendations.
“We think this review could see a turning point for health and safety in the UK by turning the focus away from daft decisions about conker competitions and hanging baskets and back onto saving people’s lives in genuinely hazardous areas of work and public life,” he said.